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Industry 4.0 – What does this mean for the PCB Design Engineer? Everything!

Industry 4.0 stands for the digitalization of products, production technology, and production processes. Digital data is used throughout a company by all those involved in business and value-added processes. During the entire product lifecycle, the line between the virtual and the real world becomes blurred.

From this, the Internet of Things (IoT) was born, where uniquely identifiable physical components, products or systems are represented virtually. In this world, all parts of the industry are connected. People, machines, and products all communicate with one another. ..And this is where PCB Design Engineer’s play a part.

If all the research and assumption is accurate, we’re going to be seeing at least 26 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020.  This is all fantastic; however, we need to focus this from a PCB Design Engineer’s viewpoint.  How much of a role are you/they really going to be playing in those fancy marketing words like Smart Homes, Smart Cars, and Smart Cities?

Actually, quite a lot. PCB designers probably have the hardest job of all when it comes to IoT, cramming in all of that advanced functionality into package sizes that keep on shrinking.  The need for modularity is here.  Here at Phoenix Contact, we have a pretty good idea of some of the problems you are going to face and here are some of (definitely not all!) the challenges you will be up against.

  • You’ll be fighting for every inch of space on your layout! The days of having a lot of extra layout space in which to lay down all of your tracks, connectors and components have long since gone.  With IoT devices, you need to cram a ton of functionality into smaller environments - as you know, these devices could be on your body, within your clothes or even ingested!
  • You’ll be designing the entire product rather than just a PCB. You are probably used to designing a traditional circuit board and handing it over to your mechanical designer for a fit check. But in the world of IoT, this workflow doesn't work anymore. With smaller form factors, it will be more important than ever to get every stakeholder on the same page right at the start of the design journey. This will help to ensure that function, form, and business needs come together smoothly.
  • You’ll become best mates with your mechanical design engineer! It’s likely that when IoT comes into full swing, you and your mechanical team will be designing your products in tandem and in real time this means that at every stage of the design journey, modifications to both a mechanical assembly and circuit board are being shared between disciplines.

  • You’ll be worrying about reliability more than ever before! I don’t think I need say anything more about this.

In the age of IoT, the name of the engineering game is efficiency, reliability, and collaboration. You are no longer just designing circuit boards; you’re developing products for the connected world.

With this in mind, Phoenix Contact has been busy in the kitchen so to speak and have developed solutions which offer you flexibility, modularity, and constant reliability.  We can help you develop market-specific devices with our uniform design PCB terminal block. You can choose from the screw or the Push-in spring connection – without changing your PCB or device design! Find out more about this game-changing solution.

For more information contact Karl on


Phoenix Contact is a world leader for electronic components, systems and solutions in the field of electrical engineering, electronics and automation. The family-owned company currently employs 17400 people worldwide and achieved a total revenue of 2.38 billion euro in 2018. The headquarters are in Blomberg, Germany. The Phoenix Contact Group consists of nine companies and 55 sales companies. The worldwide presence is also supported by 30 agencies in Europe and overseas.

27 Sep 2018, 10:46